This has been a heck of an off season as far as changes to the Browns’ organization – both the coaching staff and the team in general. The whole thing was set into motion when Jimmy Haslam bought the team from the Lerners, and brought a new, much more involved perspective to team management. It’s no secret that Lerner was far more interested in everything outside of being the Owner of the Cleveland Browns than he was with that role, and it was reflected in the team’s lack of stability and poor on-field performance. If nothing else, Haslam taking over the team provided the hope that the owner just might show some concern for the organization as a whole, since he actively wanted to own the team.
Haslam’s first move was to fire Mike Holmgren as team president/CEO and bring in his own guy, Joe Banner. Now, initially I was a little skeptical of this move. I’ve been a big fan of Holmgren throughout his NFL career, and I was a little sad to see the walrus go. However, Haslam wanting his own guy running the front office was expected and made sense. Plus, the reality is that Holmgren didn’t do enough to turn the organization around. Banner proved effective in running the Eagles’ organization, and has a wealth of connections to agents, coaches, and GM’s.
From there, Haslam/Banner announced at the end of the season that GM Tom Heckert and Head Coach Pat Shurmur were being fired. I was on board with the firing of Shurmur, because I never liked hiring him in the first place. Further, he’s done a pretty poor job of coaching up the young talent on the Browns’ offense, which is supposed to be his specialty. I did not support the Heckert firing, as I think Tom did a heck of a job bringing in young talent. The only possible misfire was the 1st round pick on Weeden, which still remains to be seen.
This left the team with vacancies at Head Coach and GM, but Haslam/Banner vowed to bring in a new coach before finding a GM/personnel director to pair him with. The head coach search started out with a bang, with a sprint to try to woo former Oregon (current Eagles) coach Chip Kelly. Most fans, myself included, were intrigued by the prospect because of the explosive, high speed offense that Kelly runs. Once it became apparent that Kelly was not to be, Haslam/Banner began a slew of interviews before settling on Coach Rob Chudzinski. Chud was the Browns’ offensive coordinator in 07-08 under head coach Romeo Crennel, and helped coach Derek Anderson to his best NFL season and a spot in the Pro Bowl. Chud has also coached for other teams, including the Chargers and Panthers. Originally from Toledo Ohio, Coach Chud is a lifelong Browns fan and definitely brings a hometown perspective to the team. I’ll admit that I didn’t love the hire initially, as I would have rather have seen the team hire Mike Zimmer or Bruce Arians out of the candidates available, but Chud has since won me over by his clear passion for this position and the fantastic staff moves he’s made in the time since his hire.
The Browns then hired former Browns’ staffer, long time NFL personnel guru, and NFL Network analyst Mike Lombardi to take the GM reins. This is probably the most controversial hire thus far. Lombardi was an unequivocal bust in his time in Cleveland, though that was nearly 20 years ago. He was also the “brains” behind the drafting of Jamarcus Russel in Oakland, and is widely known for taking big gambles in drafting and free agency. I’ll admit that I do enjoy his commentary for NFL Network and find myself agreeing with him a lot these days, especially on topics like Brandon Weeden. That said, the rumor mill made it pretty clear that Lombardi was the team’s GM pick months ago. He’s definitely got the most to prove out of everyone hired thus far.
Coach Chud’s first staff moves were to fill the offensive and defensive coordinator spots. While I was in no way sad to see Brad Childress go (worst coach ever), I think I speak for many fans when I say that defensive coordinator Dick Jauron did a heck of a job last season. He is definitely a top 5 defensive coach in the NFL. The hire of Norv Turner as offensive coordinator was both smart and unexpected. Norv is one of the best offensive minds in the League, even if he does fail as a head coach. Ray Horton was hired as the Browns’ new defensive coordinator, which was about the only move that was going to appease me, personally. You don’t often get to replace a top 5 coach with another top 5 coach, but the Browns actually did, so I’ll take it.
Over the next few days, we’re going to break down each coach more in depth, but this recap should get you up to speed on the current front office/coaching staff.